Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Eclipse - Bristol Review

While I have been listening to Eclipse on and off for the past couple of years, it has only been in the last couple of months or so that I have become a real fan. I bought, and enjoyed, both 2012's Bleed & Scream and 2015's Armageddonize when they were fairly new, but the songs had never really got under my skin as much as I thought they probably should have done. That all changed this year when I took the chance to see the band live for the first time as they organised a few UK shows to support the release of their sixth studio album Monumentum (which I reviewed here) which was released last month. I was surprised to see a band like Eclipse booked to play in Bristol, and when I saw the date was the day after Dream Theater's gig in Cardiff, I knew I had to make the effort to see what Eclipse were like live. I had to pass through Bristol anyway to get home to Plymouth from Cardiff, so there really was no excuse to miss this show. Since Monumentum's release, I have been listening to Eclipse quite a bit, and they are probably now one of my most listened artists of the year so far as a result. I think Monumentum is my favourite album from the band yet, and the songs really hit the spot like the band had not done for me previously. I have since re-visited the other two albums of theirs that I own and those albums have also clicked with me now. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time and the right mindset to really get what a band is about, and Eclipse have now firmly cemented themselves in my brain. Despite only having been there once previously, I think that the Thekla is the best small venue in Bristol. The fact that it is a moored boat certainly adds to the novelty venue of the place, but the sound has been fantastic now on both my visits to the place. The intimate feel of the venue is great, but it does extend back a fair way which means a decent-sized crowd can attend so you almost get the best of both worlds. I was not sure what sort of draw Eclipse would be, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the venue pretty full throughout most of the night with plenty of enthusiastic AOR fans in attendance.

Sadly the crowd was a little sparse when Denmark's Franklin Zoo took to the stage, but this did not phase the five-piece metal band who stormed through about half an hours worth of groovy, heavy music. On an AOR-dominated bill, Franklin Zoo did stick out like a sore thumb with their mid-paced brand of Alice in Chains/Black Sabbath-inspired metal, but the songs were there for sure. The crowd did eventually warm to them however, and by the end of their set a few more people had snuck into the venue and the final couple of numbers went down pretty well. Franklin Zoo certainly were not the most logical choice as openers for this bill, but I enjoyed what they had to offer and their songs were packed full of mighty riffs.

Finland's One Desire, who are embarking on their first ever tour, were the main support act and they really impressed from the off. I have also been enjoying their self-titled debut album (which I reviewed here) over the past month or so so knew all of the seven songs that they played. It would appear that I was not the only One Desire fan in attendance, and the band were greeted like old friends and even the band seemed a little taken aback at the reaction their set garnered. The keyboard driven opening number Hurt really set the tone, and André Linman (vocals/guitar) impressed from the off with a strong voice (even if his stage moves are stolen from fellow Finn Alexi Laiho!). There are very few weak moments on the band's debut album and all of the best songs were packed into their set. Love Injection was one of the main highlights and the song's chorus is one of the poppiest and catchiest on record. The smiles on members of the audience when it was underway was obvious and the song received a huge cheer. Jimmy Westerlund (guitar/vocals) also stood out throughout the set, taking most of the guitar solos and churning out some tasty riffs. One Desire are certainly heavier on stage and their songs took on more of an edge live. Sadly Whenever I'm Dreaming was ruined a little by sound problems which saw the keyboards (played by a guest keyboardist who's name I do not know) dominate everything! The band were clearly upset with this and rightly so as it seems like something the person controlling the sound could have easily fixed! Luckily the closing number Buried Alive ensured the set ended on a high. It is the heaviest One Desire song so made sense as a closer and the huge cheer that went up as the band finished just showed what the crowd thought. I hope to hear more from this band in the future! The setlist was:

Turn Back Time
Love Injection
This is Where the Heartbreak Begins
Whenever I'm Dreaming
Buried Alive

I do not think I was quite prepared for just how good Eclipse were going to be. By the time they hit the stage there was a decent-sized crowd in attendance and everyone there was up for a good time. Eclipse's music is a perfect soundtrack to a good time, and the opening double salvo of Vertigo and Never Look Back really fired things up. Like One Desire, Eclipse's songs take on more an edge live and the energy the band creates on stage really pushes things even future. Erik Mårtensson (vocals/guitar) is a fantastic frontman and really prowls the stage with his huge smile and just makes sure everyone is involved! Even on songs where he is burdened with a guitar he still manages to move around and throw enough rock star poses for the cameras. Never Look Back particularly really got the party started and the huge chorus was sung back at the back with gusto by the crowd. The entire set came from the band's most recent three albums, and only the biggest anthems were played. Wake me Up, with that stunning John Sykes-esque riff perfectly executed by Magnus Henriksson (guitar/vocals), and Killing Me were early highlights; as was the perfect ballad Hurt. Mårtensson acknowledged that he is not the greatest writer of ballads (I have to agree with him there, his hard rocking songs are far better!) but this one is probably his best yet. The chorus is gorgeous and it just has all the hallmarks of what makes a great ballad. This led into a drum solo which was Philip Crusner playing along to a recording of the classical piece O Fortuna which got more explosive as it went along and brought to mind Cozy Powell's famous 1812 Overure solos with Rainbow et al! A couple of acoustic numbers followed and Battlegrounds particularly stood out here. There was plenty of chance for audience participation at the end as Mårtensson encouraged the crowd to sing the melodies, which they did and very loudly. The last part of the band's set was packed with more catchy songs. The heavier Black Rain, which Mårtensson was a song he had been trying to write for a while, really hit the spot after a bit of a mellower part of the set and Blood Enemies saw yet more singing from the crowd. The two were joined together by an extended band jam session that was centred around a guitar solo from Henriksson that showed off his considerable skills. Stand On Your Feet and Runaways brought the main set to and end, with the latter probably being the overall song of the night. The whole attempt to get Eclipse to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest passed me by so I had not actually heard the song Runaways before. It is possibly the catchiest song the band have ever written and it has become a firm favourite of mine since the gig! The huge cheers meant the band were soon back for more and I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry and Bleed and Scream brought a triumphant set of hard-edged AOR to a perfect ending! The setlist was:

Never Look Back
The Storm
Wake me Up
Killing Me
Drum solo
Live Like I'm Dying
The Downfall of Eden
Black Rain
Guitar solo
Blood Enemies
Stand On Your Feet
I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry
Bleed and Scream

Throughout the course of the evening I managed to get my copies of Monumentum and One Desire signed by all the members of Eclipse and One Desire respectively. Some of the guys were even hanging around outside the venue before the show chatting to fans, and both bands were at the merchandise table after their sets. It is always great to see bands do this and it just makes the evenings a little more special to get CDs signed! I even met DragonForce's Sam Totman who were there to enjoy the show too, so it was fun to chat to him briefly. I hope it is not long before Eclipse return to the UK again, as I will definitely be making an effort to get to one of the shows on their next UK tour.

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